Lessons in Summer…

And officially, August is behind us.

Back in the day there used to be a seasonal “What I Learned” blog link up, and even though those days are long gone, as I attempt to regain some sense of routine and productivity, I decided keeping track of “what I learned” this summer would be a healthy practice.

With the June-August block of time fittingly in our rear view mirror, I thought I would sit down and take some time to share those things with you.

to slow…

This Covid year had already given us a crash course in slowing, but as the world began to (sort of) reopen, and many people attempted to return to the way they remembered life, before the Pandemic, my summer took me deeper. This slowing, in the warm and muggy summer months felt more of my own doing.

Hammocks and afternoons reading on the porch became luxuries that I could embrace rather than just WISHING I could, because I was so busy all of the time.

Tall glasses of sun tea, and late dinners of grilled fish and vegetables became a standard that we could enjoy because we were present in those moments.

Slow=Present. Connected.

to substitute…

This summer we experienced the major malfunction of our fridge/freezer, costing us a lot of groceries. We can’t really afford to replace it, so we’ve had to be creative about how we place items in it. It’s been fun.

Simultaneously, our most used appliance died. THAT loss hurt. Thankfully we love the company and they replaced it, even out of warranty, though it did take 4 weeks to happen.

In the midst of that four week span of time, our actual oven died.

I say all of this to show that, in a time when we were not wanting to “run to the supermarket” continuously, and our means of meal making was challenging the very way we did things, we learned to substitute.

One silly example: I learned that though I love guacamole on so many things, the walmart brand of single serving guac is actually delicious, affordable and keeps longer than the larger ones I would usually by or make.

That is just one little example of the many ways we learned to adapt amidst the challenges. What we found, now that we are on the other side of that, is that sometimes it’s ok to take the “shortcut” and substitute. We don’t HAVE to make things harder to meet other people’s expectations.

to ask…

June kicked of as emotions were newly high over the murder of George Floyd. All over the internet there was activism, support, and black out challenges to support not only the Black Lives Matter movement, but to continue waking up the world re: the realities of systemic racism and injustice.

Inspired by the Share The Mic Now campaign (of which Glennon Doyle was a founder), I wanted to be involved in something that made a difference. After digging around, and watching others take to social media with similar campaigns focussed within their passion/career field, I was encouraged to launch a Share The Mic Now campaign for writers, and so I did.

At first it was TERRIFYING.

Growing up in the late 80’s and 90’s, I was taught that colorblind is the response of a non-racist. To accept all skin colors, you have to be blind to them. I was taught you do not ask someone questions about their ethnicity. So even though amazingly courageous conversations were happening (finally) re: how absolutely WRONG that mentality is, it was still a part of my core. I felt SICK approaching other women and asking them to participate in something BECAUSE they are Black.

But I asked… And almost everyone did.

And then, four weeks later, we did it again.

And the experience CHANGED MY LIFE. The biggest way it did this is that it stripped away a wall and created very organic connection between women. Through those adventures I got to know some of the most beautiful and amazing fellow writers. I am so proud to call them peers, and grateful to consider many of them friends.

We have had some hard talks. I have learned (and am continuing to) so much. Connecting with other female authors is empowering and life breathing…

to continue…

Through that experience I learned something else too…

Early on, in June, when I was witnessing the online community ON FIRE over the injustice, while the real world burned too, I heard several prominent Black speakers say that the “support of white people is nice and needed” but that they couldn’t trust it, because they’d seen it before and it always faded when something else shiny and new came around.

I was shocked.

I had said I would read and listen and learn, and I was.

I had committed to placing myself in uncomfortable situations for change, and I was following through.

I didn’t ever remember seeing anything like this happen before so I truly believed this was the pivotal point when eyes (and hearts) would be opened. I wasn’t able to see things as so many Black Americans could, because I am white. This isn’t meant to be shaming, and yet, I began to see how so many react as though it is…

The more I learned, the more my vision fine tuned. I was (and still am) changing. There is no going back. It took a little while for me to realize the majority was not changing with me.

People went back to their normal lives, and the spotlight dimmed. It was subtle, but I woke up to this reality like a slap to the face, when a fellow believer verbally attacked me over a social media post. She told me I “was what was wrong with this country” because I believed this was a cause worth fighting for. That i needed to “shut up” and let people go on to their normal lives. The post in question had been someone else’s. I had shared it in a “story” suggesting it was, if nothing else, thought provoking.

Within a week I had women from the Collective Community pouring out very similar stories. We were all sick over A) the disgusting responses of people we had once considered “ours”, and B) so heartbroken because what we had seen was merely a fragment’s fragment of what generations of Black men, women and children have felt constantly. Sobering.

It’s so easy to be swept up in something meaningful, when the whole world is floating that current. When the bend comes, and we have to go it mostly alone, against the water’s strong push- it’s a whole other thing.

Continue. The best news, despite hurt and sadness, is that we find new people we can call “ours”, and those people are way more ours than the ones who came before.

to adapt…

With all of our slow, extra time, we were able to do some things we hadn’t had time to do before. One was finally putting in an outdoor movie space. We’d wanted to do this since we moved here in September of 2018. We had slowly acquired the items needed and even attempted it last summer. We couldn’t figure out how to do it well, plus we were so busy…

But this summer we did it, and it’s amazing! Neighbors love it. We’ve had friends over and they love it. Hands down, the highlight of our summer!

When our local theater opened, last week, we lucked into some passes. Pre-Covid, we were AVID movie goers. We love movies, loved the experience. It was just “our thing”. In fact, we were at the theater two days before they went on lockdown, because I was doing some presswork for a small release. Coronavirus was already a major topic, and we left that screening terrified we were about to die. In the small, packed theater we had fellow patrons coughing here and there, and the energy among us all was stiff and rigid. As the credits rolled, I remember thinking “I feel like this was emotional and I should be crying, but honestly I just want to get the hell out of here!”

With our free passes, we braved going back last friday afternoon. It was weird. We were actually the only two people there, and had no anxiety about anything. We just didn’t love it. It felt long and uncomfortable. We realized that, although going to the movies had been such a big part of our lives, we hadn’t really missed it. We each admitted that our home theater is so much more fun.

We were both surprised…

What about you? What did this summer teach you?

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…

four…

Growing up a little white girl, among a see of hispanic children was both hard, and it wasn’t. I mean, it WAS hard because I always felt like I didn’t fit in. Adding to that the fact that my mother was a smoker and the kids at school always made it a point to acknowledge that I was a Gringo, and stank. It also wasn’t hard though, because it was what I knew. I had no alternative to compare it to.

Childhood leaves us with the funnest memories, doesn’t it?

When I was a teenager I was living in a fundamentalist group home in (then) rural Idaho. Life was the sheltered sort, with the exception being church and youth group at a local “city” church. A mojority of the normal kids at church, living in their normal homes, going to normal schools and eating normal foods thought us group home kids were freaks. To be honest, their parents also saw us as dangers. It was an isolating and pretty scarring existence.

With this package deal attached to my early life development, there was also the personal feelings (SO MANY FEELINGS) that I had about NOT fitting in. Not feeling a part of things, sure. I had essentially been abandoned by my family and lived a daily life of rejection, so those feelings made a lot of sense.

I also didn’t WANT to fit in.

While everyone was listening to what was hot and trendy, following the current of what they believed kids our age were supposed to do, I teetered there, unsure.

Did I follow along, accept and finally achieve belonging?

Did I go with my gut and follow the less worn path of obscure movie tastes and worn out sneakers?

The struggle was real.

I believed the struggle would eventually subside as I matured into a woman, beyond the angsty years of teenagehood. I was wrong.

That eternal quest to belong equated itself with my sense of personal worth so deeply. Knit by (what I believed, at the time) the rejections, abuses and abandonment thematically designing my life, a melancholy hopelessness settled into everything I did.

I went into group home care in 1988.

I walked through that gate and into the real world in 1993.

I became a wife in 1994.

In 2017 I learned that, on the enneagram chart, I am a four.

Fours have big feelings. Fours are creative and artistic. Fours ache to fit in, but also want to dance to their own rhythm. (and their own, non-trend decided tunes) Fours are (likely) the 90’s emo kids. They are the ones not regularly depicted on screen, in film and television because they happen to (probably) be the real life people writing those characters and creating that art.

I embraced my four.

I connected with other fours.

Knowing these things, having these explanations, it’s like the comfort of filling the gaps I’ve lived with, unwhole, for my entire life. It also forces me to see where my flaws lie. The how’s and the why’s.

I am able to know “ok, these are things I’ll do when I’m at my emotional healthiest”, and “these are indications that I need to work some stuff out, because I’m struggling.”

So many times we’ve humorously mumbled about life not having an instruction manual, or people not coming with a guide.

Guess what? We do.

That is literally what the enneagram does for us.

Plainly put, it is EMPOWERING.

Owning our truths helps us with one another too. For instance, I know that if someone on my team is an enneagram two, they will be prone to saying “yes” and people pleasing. Knowing that, and asking a lot of them anyway would be exploitive and selfish. Additionally, being married to an enneagram nine has helped me realize he isn’t passive or apathetic, he is simply prone to not cause ripples. At his unhealthiest, this can be dark and explosive. Knowing these things helps me love and respect him the way he deserves. It helps me see all of him, and love him.

If you don’t know where you’re at, or want to learn more, I strongly recommend the Road Back to You, by Ian Cohn. Also, in this week’s episode of the Collective Podcast, Abbey Howe is hanging out and chatting random ennea-info with us. Her youtube channel Enneagram with Abbey is super fun and informative. (As is Ian Cohn’s podcast!)

A powerful thing…

A million years ago, we crossed into a new millennium.

I found myself a twenty-three year old divorcee with a trail of miscarriages, health issues and heartbreak in the jet streams behind me. Because I’d become a wife so young, and essentially achieved grown-up status as a child, in many ways it felt like I was beginning my life again.

With all of the change, why not add in my first solo-cross country move? I took a position in rural Kentucky and a Greyhound took me on the thirty-six hour adventure to my new life.

Prior to this unexpected chapter, I had always been the girl who prided herself on having an easier time forming friendships with guys, over girls. Sure, I’d had girlfriends, but I found it so much easier to be real with my guy friends. And then, suddenly I was in my new life, making new connections and friendships.

FORTUNATELY for me, the housing situation paired me with the sweetest girl, who I am still so grateful to call one of my dearest friends. Because we worked such long, and often opposite, schedules- it wasn’t super regular that we hung out. Quite often, the early foundation of our friendship was laid, brick by brick, around our shared kitchen table over Kraft mac and cheese, with music videos in the background and generic soda. We learned not only to laugh, and share, together- but I learned to heal and grow though that.

A few times, our days off aligned and we were able to take the winding mountain roads into town for a meal and some shopping. On one of these particular trips, normal for most girls but so foreign and mysterious for me, she mentioned needing lipstick.

I did not wear lipstick. In fact, I wore minimal make up. I didn’t love it, I didn’t understand it. I had never had anyone show or explain much of it, to me. I knew that my mother was glamorous and all about beauty, when she was in the mental health headspace to care about such things, but I’d left home long before I would have any interest in such things…

At some drug store, in small city Kentucky, my adorable friend Laura taught me about lipstick. She taught me about color matching, to the back of my hand, and about how a good lip color can bring with it the power to change an entire day.

Over the course of our months living near each other, this special girl would become the first deep female friendship I’d really know. She held my secrets and listened to the things. She would co-carry the load of inside jokes and sway with me to the rhythm of Dave Matthews, which was the very first magical thing to bond us. She would read a hilarious book, and then loan it to me so that we could swoon and talk about the same things. There are a thousand things my friendship with Laura shaped about my life, and the chapters of life that would unfold. I remember so much of it, etched clear as day, in my soul. The most prominent of memories though, is that Tuesday afternoon in the make-up aisle.

The truth us, a good lip color can deeply impact a lot of things, but the pure & honest friendship and support of another woman has the power to change the world.

I tell this story in this week’s episode {76} of the Collective. That is about the extent of what I bring to the table really, because our guest Katie Allen is an absolute FORCE and as she shared about reconnecting with herself, (and lipstick, I won’t lie) I was happy to just absorb her awesomeness. Women supporting women is a powerful thing!

and here we are…

A month ago I launched a mini, limited-run series on my podcast.

A month ago I prepared to celebrate turning 44.

I was hosting a giveaway for movie tickets and, for the most part, one month ago it was business as usual… We knew what the news was saying, and we heard what others were warning. It is so easy though, to live in a state of voluntary tunnel vision, isn’t it?

We human beings can pretend really well.

I was among the many, who grew more anxious about impending March changes, and yet somehow still felt blindsided when reality, Shelter in Place orders and infected numbers continued to rise…

Season three of our show was set to premiere mid-april. A powerhouse of a virtual conference was being designed for a few days later. Enthusiasm for both things was HIGH. Despite the looming threats, we had no idea how that would impact us, and how could we? The only thing we’d ever seen, remotely like the world suddenly feels, today, played out on the big screen.

When I line up guests and topics, for the show, I take a pretty organic approach. I usually follow the opportunities that come my way and seldom have to chase down a person. The upcoming season three was no exception. Most guests were scheduled and confirmed, by Thanksgiving. We were set to begin recording in March. It had all gone together so smoothly, it was easy to feel a sense of accomplishment as the calendar turned…

Ironically, there were several mental health experts, therapists and coaches lined up. As my team and I connected, via zoom, to meet our guests, mini therapy session began to unfold. While taking care of families, responsibilities, our lives and going through the minute-by-minute changes the world was sending our way- we were there on screen together, processing with experts along the way.

It was hard, and awkward, cathartic, vulnerable and all around necessary. Unplanned by us at all, we have weeks of conversations with really strong women, unfolding on the show. It’s amazing really, and humbling as I am once again seeing how important this journey is…

This week’s new episode is with Nicole Burgess. She is a psychotherapist, introvert empowerment coach and also has an awesome podcast! Within her interview the one thing you can expect is several jewels of wisdom and perspective. Nicole said so many healing and healthy things that I am sure you can hear me scribbling notes in the background.

Towards the end of this powerful episode, Nicole challenges us to determine an action step that we can do each and every day. I’ll admit, such a simple directive can be incredibly powerful during this season of uncertainty and self-isolation. (On her website, she has the opportunity for a free workshop that is also timely and relevant.)

Come listen to Episode 71, and learn along side us, better ways to get through this season, but also to give us essential items for our tool box of the future.